Redcoat renewed?

Our redcoats are used 5 days a week all through the school year, and understandably get quite faded. They get retired before they are worn out due to the color change…they’re more like pinkish redcoats by the time we replace them. 

Our Sgt. sashes also get quite faded, but the fringe more then the rest, as it’s exposed quite a bit more. Lockton said that someone told him to use fabric spray paint on it to renew the color ( I had never heard of fabric spray paint, but it’s a thing!). 

Worked pretty well! So…I decided to try it on a recently retired redcoat that was in good shape except for the fading. We taped them all up to cover the lacing and buttons (and we’ll be more particular if we do it again!), and I went to town with the spray paint. 

You can see how bad the fading is from the opened up cuffs and lapels where its not faded at all.

Here’s how it looks half done….looking good!

Looks so much better! It does change the feel of the wool a little bit and it’s almost a bit tacky. It’s not uncomfortable to wear (although I dont know how it will breath yet). It may have come out this way due to my impatience, and if I try it again (likely) I’ll follow the directions more closely (do one light coat, let it dry, repeat!), and I think the results will be much better. But all in all, $15 to renew a $600 coat for a couple more seasons is totally worth it (just don’t touch the stiff coat!)!


18th Century Faire at Riley’s Farm

This July we hosted an 18th Century Faire for the very first time! It was such an adventure, with guest numbers close to 400 3 of the 4 weeks. The other week was about 250, which was great, because we had downpours half the day! The first year we do an event is always a gamble, but this one was well attended, and people really seemed happy to be there and learn about all kinds of 18th Century things. I’m only going to show your our tent, because well, that’s mostly the only place I was! There was lots of other fun stuff going on, I just didn’t see much of it.

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When you come into our tent you are greeted with children’s clothes. We pulled out our stash so the kids could try on breeches and petticoats and whatnot. Next year we may try to have a rental service of some sort, because everyone wanted to keep their 18th Century clothes on and go explore, but we couldn’t let them leave the tent. There were some really cute kids running around in our tent though!

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To the left of the dress up area were some things for sale, pinned to the tent wall. Abi made us 6 bergere (straw) hats, 5 aprons, 3 ladies caps, and 3 men’s caps. We weren’t really a selling tent, but we wanted to have something to offer. We ended up selling 3 bergere (straw) hats and 1 cap on the last day. Everything else we can put into our stock for living historians. Yay for stock! In the middle of the tent we had our two work tables.

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On the end of Abi’s work table we laid out swatches from Burnley and Trowbridge, which had all kinds of 18th Century fabrics for people to touch and feel. There were linens, wools (worsted, melton, coating), cottons, silks, camlets, and some others I don’t remember the name of right now. We also had a project for people to help us with, and earn a slice of pie. We had Katrina Van Tassels gown for Sleepy Hollow ready, and we were hemming trim to add to it. Whoever helped us with hemming trim, got free pie! We also had a Tambour frame, which is a really fun type of embroidery. It’s sort of like crocheting on fabric. We’re hoping to do some pieces with it for plays and filming. On my table we had cockade and breastknot making. This cost one activity ticket, because you got to take it home.

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Behind the activity tables we had Katrina Van Tassels gown, and a banyan, for display. The banyan is one we made for a character in Courage, but we wanted to display some menswear too. This gown will not be worn with the green handkerchief, but I wanted the handkerchief to be seen (I got it for my birthday!). The gown will be trimmed with white organdy, a large flounce on the petticoat, and flatter puffed or pleated trim all around the neckline and down the fronts, and some on the sleeves too of course. Another post about the completed gown will be coming (as soon as it’s done, of course!).

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Behind Jack and Sloey (the dressforms), were our ‘museum’ tables. We decided to display underwear, because every one would see the outerwear on all the people manning the faire. We wanted to show what went underneath, and people tend to ask anyway. So we had another banyan, a man’s shirt, stock, cravat, cap, apron, stockings, and a ladies shift, two pairs of stays, mitts, bibbed apron, caps, pockets, hip rolls, a rump, pocket hoops, stockings.

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At the far end we had a display of cosmetics and beauty products. On the shelves we had a pitcher and basin, with a sponge of course, and towels I made for this display. We featured products from LBCC Historical, because I had seen them several times, and wanted to do this display. They come with lovely period looking labels, and when we got to play with them we were not disappointed. They are lovely products! They smell really good, and she used period recipes to make them. We had lots of people stop in this area to inspect all the goodies. There was face scrub (located by the pitcher and basin of course!), cold cream, lip tint, lip balm, face salve, burnt cloves (for darkening the eyebrows), rouge, body powder…. I also had hair powder and pomatum from Heirloom Haircare. I had my hair pomaded and powdered the entire month of July. I took a class at Costume College about it (from the lady who runs Heirloom Haircare), and apparently I wasn’t using nearly enough pomade or powder. I also wasn’t that itchy before though!

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The products were so cute displayed! I loved that my chatelaine ended up in the mirror when I took this picture. Sneaky little thing!

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Abi and I decided that we needed pictures of our costumes too! We had made them specially for this faire, since most of the time we are in the workshop, and not seen! We both have really old working class outfits that we wear if we are on tour, or we snag something from stock. But for faire, since we were representing fashion, we though we should be a little more in style! I made a pet en lair, or short sack back jacket, worn with a matelasse petticoat I had snagged some time ago off the Courage set. I love this petticoat so much, I didn’t want anyone else to get a hold of it and ruin it….at least that’s my story, and if we need it for filming, I’ll give it back!  Worn with my American Duchess shoes of course, and new stockings (for my birthday! My sisters sure know what I like!).

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Abi made a gown from 1780. It came out really well, and I’ll see if I can get her to do a blog post about it. I think this is the first costume she’s really made for herself, with proper fittings and all. I’m sorry the butt bow is squished in the pictures, but we forgot to fluff it up. She also made a lovely bergere, which I’ll ask her to show in her post. Sorry this is such a long post, but Faire took up most of June to prep, and a lot of July! It was a very fun experience, and I’m sure next year it will be even better!

Mitts and Dresses!

IMG_0459This week in the costume shop we have been making warm mitts for our Colonial girls. It has been quite frigid and we don’t have any in stock (except 1 pair of silk ones…). So I gathered up some short pieces of wool and ended up cutting out 19 pairs of mitts!


Here they are all prepped. I sewed the side seam and the thumb seam on the machine.


And here are a bunch of them done! The thumb is sewn on by hand. Much easier the trying to do that bit on the machine. I have 3 pairs that I’m still working on. 1 piece of wool ended up being a little bit ravely, so I had 4 pairs that needed the triangle flap lined and everything hemmed. Pictures of those when they are done (they are extra cute:).  The next batch will include some blue. I hadn’t realized I was missing such an important color, but several of the girls prefer it.


Abi got this dress done this week, along with a bunch of mending. I think it turned out darling!! It’s late 1880s, and for Michelle, one of our store girls. She has been suffering in a short sleeved, low necked gown of an indeterminate era (someone gave it to us), because it was the only thing we had on hand that fit her. The new dress is much more becoming, and it’s much more accurate, which makes me happy!!


It looks really cute with a white bibbed apron over it. Its made of a cotton reproduction print from

Meanwhile, I finished a dress for Brittany, one of our other store girls. She is expecting a baby in May, so she needed something that would accommodate her new figure.



I used a yoked blouse pattern, added in extra panels for fullness, and extended them to become dress length.


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It is made out of a tiny green and white cotton print. The trim on the collar and sleeves is 1/4″ twill tape, and the ‘belt’ is just a length of 1 1/4″ twill tape.

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Unbelted it just looks like a sack, but you can see how much fullness she’ll have to last her all the way through her pregnancy.

I went shopping yesterday to try and get everything else we needed for Sherlock, but came up a bit short. I’m going to order the rest online right now, and hope it all gets here in time!


18th Century Frockcoat Tutorial

By Mary JohnsIMG_2871

This tutorial is meant for someone who has perhaps already made a coat, but wants to make one with period techniques. I do love comments and questions, so if you are a beginner and need help, don’t be afraid to ask!

I’m also expecting you to be good friends with your steam iron, and you to use it after every step! It not only sets your stitches, but helps give you a professional result.

This coat was made with wool outer, silk lining, horsehair and batting (probably poly:( but I’m pretending it was wool:). I used linen thread throughout, waxed of course!

Step 1. Look at lots of books. Put away the books that are not helpful. The ones I stuck with for this coat are: The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900, By Norah Waugh – I used pages 86-92 for construction information. Page 84 was especially helpful for buckram and padding placement, even though the coat was a little earlier style then the one I made. I used page 93 to help guide me in  making the pattern. Book number 2: Costume Close-Up, Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790, By Linda Baumgarten and Johns Watson with Florine Carr. I used item 17 to help me with construction details and cutting out, Pages 80-89. I also like to keep The Lady’s Guide to Plain Sewing Books 1 and 2, and The Workman’s Guide to Tailoring Stitches and Techniques handy. They are available from Kannik’s Korner. I use them frequently to remind myself of certain stitches or techniques.

Step 2. Pick material and cut it out.  I used a pattern for the base, then altered it using the diagrams. I wanted the coat to be circa 1770, but made for a gentleman who preferred the older styles, so a toned down version of a 1750 or 1760’s coat.

Step 3. Start construction! I started with the collar. IMG_2874 IMG_2875          I cut out a piece in wool, a piece in silk and a piece in horsehair. The horsehair was trimmed to be about 1/4 inch smaller then the other pieces. I folded the wool up over it and stitched it to the horsehair. The silk then had the edges turned under and I stitched it to the wool. The silk was turned under to be smaller then the wool, so that it does not show on the outside. It tells you to use buckram for a lot of the support pieces, but I only had the kind I use to make hats, so I used horsehair instead.

Step 4. Add reinforcements.

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In CMC (Cut of Men’s Clothes) it says to add a horseshoe shaped piece of Droit-fil (band of strong linen used for strengthening) to the tops of the side pleats. Lacking Droit-fil, I used horsehair. It is very carefully caught to the wool, trying not to let the stitches go all the way through to the other side.

Step 5. Add (buckram) horsehair to fronts.

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In CMC is instructs you to tack to the reverse side, from top to bottom along the edges, 4 inches wide at the shoulders, widening to within 2 inches of the armhole, then narrowing to the seventh or eighth buttonhole where it continues straight to the bottom. I decided to fold the edge up over the horsehair, as I had done for the collar, because I couldn’t figure out how you finished that edge if you just tacked it down. Do this for the shoulder and the neck edge, as well as the front edge. Do this to both fronts (make sure you have opposites though!).

Step 6. Buttonholes.

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CMC says to mark the buttonholes, 2 or 2.5 inches long and 2 inches apart. Work the buttonholes. My favorite part! Very time consuming, but worth it. Buttonholes belong on the left side.


 There are 12 buttonholes.

Step 7. Reinforce behind the buttonholes.

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CMC – a second piece of (buckram) horsehair is added the same size as the first, but only the length of the seventh or eighth buttonhole. Add the reinforcement to both fronts.

Step 8. Add droit-fil strip to the edge.

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Again you are supposed to use droit-fil, but I used twill tape for this one. You place it along the edge, pleating it to shape where the chest is rounded. You are supposed to whip-stitch all this to the edge of the coat, but again, I couldn’t figure out how that edge was finished with all that bulk, so I carefully stitched it to the wool where it was turned over on top of the horsehair. Do this to both fronts.

Step 9. Add padding.

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You add the padding to help fill out the hollow which goes from the chest to the collar bone. I used batting, because that is what I had. It said to use cotton wool. Make sure you do this to both fronts, or you will have a lopsided coat!

Step 10. Pockets!!

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I started with the pocket flaps. I like to have them done first, because it seems like once you have the pocket holes in, it takes forever if the flaps aren’t ready. Same method as the collar, except I used wool for the front and the back.


For the actual pocket part I did it a little differently then I normally do.


In Costume Close-Up it tells you that the pocket openings have interfacing around them, and to set them in you slash the fabric, then fold the edges back over the slash and stitch them down. You reinforce the ends of the slashes with buttonhole stitches. I only stitched to the horsehair, not through the fabric, except at the ends for the buttonhole stitch.

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For the particular coat in Costume Close-Up that I was somewhat following, it tells you that the top part of the pocket part was of silk, so that when the pocket flap was up, that was all you see. This is what the pocket bag looks like. I then carefully stitched it in behind the opening, along the edge. You just have to make sure that the seam line for the silk is facing into the coat, not towards the pocket opening, and that the silk is sewn to the top part of the pocket opening, not the bottom. Then sew the sides of the pocket up.


With the pocket flaps on. I just carefully did tiny whip stitches to attach the flaps.


This is looking down into the pocket.


Both fronts, all prepped!

Step 11. Stitch the backs together, sew the fronts to the backs and sew the shoulder seams.

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CMC tells you to backstitch it up from the skirt openings up, then to fine-draw it from the outside. I had to do a little research to find out what fine-drawing is, but basically what it comes down to is to sew together so finely that the join was not noticeable. I found exactly what the stitch looks like, but I didn’t write down my source:( In the picture above you can see what it looks like though. It is a tiny straight stitch that angles up between stitches.

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Here the backs and sides are backstitched and fine-drawn.

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And here the shoulders are backstitched and fine-drawn. When you set the shoulders together, make sure you leave the back neck just a little bit longer, so that you can fold the wool over the back neck edging. The collar is only pinned on here. I added it at the end.

Step 12. Neck edging


Cut a piece of horsehair that will fit the center back neckline and go just under the shoulder seams. Stitch it down at the neckline, with the wool going over the top, just like the fronts. Stitch it at the shoulders, only to the seam allowance.

Step 13. Don’t sew the skirts together, or you will have to take them back apart like I did!

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Pictures of what not to do!

Step 14. Prepare the sleeves.

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Sew the sleeves together. Sew the sleeve linings together. Set them together, make sure the seam allowances face each other. In CC-U it said that 1/2″ of the lining extended past the edge of the outer fabric, and was folded up to the outside and stitched.


The cuffs are sewn next (or first), and I just did the fold the wool over the horsehair and stitch it down, then the add the silk turn under the edges and stitch it down thing. Then I whip stitched the sides together.


The cuff sits just a little lower then the edge of the sleeve. The silk lining of the sleeve is stitched to the wool of the cuff.

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This is what the inside of the cuff attachment looks like. You can tack the top of the cuff down at the side seams if you like.

Step 15. Set in the sleeves.


The sleeves are backstitched on for security. The armhole mess will be covered up when the lining is set in.

Step 16. Admire all your hard work and the amount of handstitching!!

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Step 17. Set in the lining.

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I backstitched the back seam, the side seams and the shoulder seams.  I also set my two hooks and eyes to the wool so they peek out, then I set in the lining.


I pinned everything very carefully (which says something, since I normally don’t pin anything!). The silk got turned under on all the edges, including around the skirts and the neck. Then stitch it to the wool using small even stitches. Try to catch the the wool under the lining and just have a tiny bit of the stitch catch the edge of the lining, and it won’t show very much. 


Fold under the body lining and stitch it over the armhole mess, to the sleeve lining, just over the seam.

Step 18. Sew on the collar.


I put the collar and coat right sides together and whipped stitched them.

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Step 19. Sew pleats into pleats!


Fold the pleats pleasingly, and stitch them down at the top, catching only the lining, and the seam allowance.

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On my coat I folded the side pleats towards the center, then tacked them along the edges in a few spots to keep them closed. The center back is a box pleat, and it is left open.

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All pleated, from the back.

Step 20. Buttons

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Make a whole lot of covered buttons. I used washers to make my buttons. 12 for the front, 3 for each cuff and pocket flap, and 2 for the tops of the back vents. So….26 total. Have fun! Sew them on. Have some more fun!

Step 21. Find a better model then I did and take some pictures!!


My camera died after this picture, and I had to give it to Jim that day. I will catch him in it and take some good pictures, then update the tutorial.

Historical Sew Fortnightly

Well this year has gotten off to a slow start! But…we started back to work last week and have mostly gotten all of the mess from Christmas in the Colonies and A Christmas Carol all washed and put away. Our first project of the year is an Irene Adler dress for our Sherlock Holmes play coming out in March. More on that as it comes along!

I decided to participate this year in the Historical Sew Fortnightly. I also decided that since I sew for a living any project that I make for work will not count (kind of a bummer for some things!), but only personal projects for myself and my family. I have had larger historical wardrobes in the past, when I was working the tours full time, but now I just want one or two good outfits in each era. I only work tour occasionally, but when I do I want to look good! I also want to start doing more events that will allow me to wear my historical stuff, so that is one of my goals this year. The first event I want to go to is Gibson Girls and Guys go Golfing. It’s through my costume guild, Costumers Guild West, Inc. It’s in March, so that gives me a few minutes to get outfits together for myself and my husband.

The first challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly (HSF) is Make Do and Mend. Some people are using up fabric in their stash and making do with patterns and things on hand. I had mending to do. Yay! So exciting. But…I had bones sticking up out of my stays, and my drawers needed attention.

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And here are the stays mended:


It’s ugly, but the canvas is starting to fray, so the stitching had to go far enough up to catch good canvas and cover the bad. We have a challenge coming up called Under it All, and I’m looking forward to maybe making a pair of stays for myself that actually fit (and mayhaps enhance my figure:).

Here are the drawers in their hastily fixed state (a state that did not work!):


My drawers had been a little bit long in the crotch, just enough to be annoying all day long, so I did a quick fix and folded the waistband over and sewed it down. One of the problems with this is the extra bulk at the waist, and the other is that now the button and buttonhole were inside and backwards! And the waistband was shorter…and I’m slightly plumper then I was when I made them. I had to safety pin them very carefully, as I didn’t want the safety pin to pop while I was wearing them, especially as I wear them under my corset, and that would really hurt!!

Here they are fixed:


I took off the waistband, cut about an inch off the waist and put the waistband back on.

I also mended my 1880’s teagown. We had used this style for work dresses, and for some reason everyone loves this dress. I have come to realize that this style is perhaps not the most accurate style to use for an everyday or wash dress, but oldies are goodies, and despite all the wear this one has a little more time left.


It had a chunk of the hem missing, despite being ferreted, so I trimmed the icky bit and re-ferreted it. It also had a tear right above that and since I was at home I had no patching materials. I had found the piece of twill tape I used for the ferreting when I was going through my costumes looking for mending, so I just used that to mend the tear as well.

The next challenge (due Feb. 1) is Innovations. Something that was new and innovative in your chosen era. I have so many eras its hard to figure out what to use. But…I need hoops for my Civil War dress, so that might be my project. However, hoops of all kinds have been around for quite some time, so that might not count. Ideas? I’m open!!

Getting ready for Christmas in the Colonies 2013


For the last Christmas in the Colonies of the year, all the guests are required to dress up. For those that do not have their own costumes, they can rent them from us. This year I had 20 people rent costumes, including 5 children. We never know exactly how many are going to rent until the day of (I try to cut it off, but we can’t help but accommodate if we can). We always seem short of something, so we stocked up on basics. We made 20 cravats (you can never have to many!). They took forever! I don’t know why, they are just 6’x5″ or so, but it seemed like they took days and days to hem up. We also made 12 white aprons, 5 plain linen, 5 linen with a simple cross bar type embroidery and 2 cotton with embroidered sprigs. We have had another 15 just laying around, waiting to have waistbands attached, so we finished those up too. Those are a mix of cotton and linen checks and stripes. We were also short 5 pairs of pockets, and those were finished the day of the dinner, but hey! They got done! 



Abi made 2 pairs of jumps, and one of the little boys waistcoats. We had two 6 year old boys, and we had one set of small clothes that were….ok. The waistcoat had seen better days, and the breeches are so stiff they can stand up on their own (I’m not kidding either, they really can!). I didn’t remember my own 6 year olds small clothes until we had already started the new ones, but you can never have to many! I took the old waistcoat and just kind of drafted a new pattern from it. There might be a few changes if I make another one, but it came out pretty well.

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Here is my little guy, Luke, trying on the waistcoat for me. It always helps to know I’m going in the right direction size and fit wise.

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It still needs buttons here, but I was just making sure it was a go. The one below is the one Abi made.


And the little breeches! I had to make a pattern for them too, I didn’t have any the right size, and no drop fronts. So…I pulled out a pair of men’s breeches and made a little pattern. It needs a little work in the crotch area, but not too bad.

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Here is the barn while I was getting all the costumes ready…

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And here is what the cider cellar looked like, when it was ready for the guests to get dressed. I only have the one picture, my camera died before I could get the rest…but I got a new one for Christmas (yay!!!), so hopefully the quality of my pictures will improve.


Sarah Courage gets a jacket that fits!

By Mary Johns

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We recently did a fundraiser for Courage, New Hampshire, at which 6 of our cast members were there in costume. Sarah Pine Wheedle Courage was one of them, played by Alexandra Oliver. She has not yet had a jacket or gown to fit her properly, and the last one I made her I really messed up. I overestimated how shortwaisted to make it, and it is 2 inches too short in the waist and sleeve. Oops! So I decided it was time to get her into something that fits! We have successfully made her stays that fit, we did the cardboard mock up and she actually wore them for one whole day of filming, then we used those to make the real stays.  So we had the underpinnings right and just needed to get the top layer right! I was hoping to make a longer skirted jacket, but I barely eeked out a short skirted one. Luckily we already had a stomacher made of the same fabric. I have to say, I really love how the print matched up in the back! I was really happy with how it turned out, and Alex loved it too, which was definitely a bonus!

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I used some of the techniques I learned making Jim’s frockcoat, and they make things turn out so much nicer. Go figure, they knew what they were doing! Please excuse the gaudy lining, I knew it wouldn’t show, and I have lots of calico that needs to be used up for something. The outside and the lining were both sewn (on the machine, gasp! I know!), then I did a hidden hem stitch on all the outside edges of the jacket and hemmed the lining on all edges. I hemmed the lining a little bit bigger then the outside. I then set the lining into the jacket and hand stitched it in. This way the lining can never roll to the outside of the jacket (that has been a problem before, since we laundry much more frequently then our forebears did, and apparently we were constructing our garments wrong!). The eyelets are all done by hand, and there is horsehair lining both front edges of the jacket where the eyelets are.


The brown block print is from, they don’t have this print anymore, but they do have some others that are darling! I got it to use for the stomacher used in the scene below. It is from Courage, New Hampshire, Episode 2.


I reused the stomacher for this jacket and we’ll see if anyone catches it!